Friday, April 2, 1999
Concord students start learning Spanish in third grade
The Concord Public Schools have begun a pilot program to teach Spanish to students starting in the third grade. At the Regional School Committee meeting on March 23, Assistant Superintendent Karen Nerpouni showed a video of this year's third-grade class, with students learning such language basics as simple introductions, questions, body parts, colors and numbers. Nerpouni said that the program will expand to all grade three students in the fall of 1999. The students will take three 40-minute Spanish classes weekly. It is expected that Spanish will be added to the curriculum for grades four and five in later years. Currently, many schools in the state do not include an early foreign language program.
Nerpouni said some of the reasons for starting a foreign language in elementary school and for choosing Spanish are: research shows there is a window of opportunity for children to learn a second language more easily before age ten, the language is more widely spoken today due to an increasing Spanish population in the United States, and its similarity to English makes it easier to learn.
The assistant superintendent said that the main issue with starting Spanish in the elementary years is how to fit it into the existing curriculum. There is concern that the time for math, science and social studies would have to be reduced. Concord RSC member Fred Wersan said he was concerned about the issue of breadth versus depth in subjects. "What do you give up to fit this in?" he asked. Concord member Carolyn Musicant brought up the possibility of making the school year longer so that teachers would not have to reduce class content in other subjects to make time for Spanish.
Chair Cindy Nock said that Carlisle is currently doing a survey and is considering starting French at the elementary school level. She asked Nerpouni how this would integrate with Concord at the high school level. Nerpouni said there would be no problem and one of the goals in Concord is to have advanced level language courses at the high school.
Nerpouni also told the RSC that a new foreign language Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test is planned to be phased in over the next few years. The state curriculum frameworks on which MCAS is based have a "high expectation of proficiency" for foreign languages at the tenth grade level, according to Nerpouni.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito